Manufacturers are known to have annual “Developer Days” or industry confab events and Genetec is no exception. Typically, each year Genetec brings in security publication reporters and editors from around the world to their Montreal, Quebec, Canada, headquarters for a couple days of “state of the company” highlights. They will bring in senior managers to pontificate about certain aspects of the Genetec product offering and market positioning.
At such events, it is normal for the company President/CEO/Jafe to come in and give a couple words about the company, say something polite about us coming, and exit stage left.
Pierre Racz, CEO, founder, largest shareholder, and probably most important (at least to him, I assume) chief engineer, isn’t that typical CEO. Racz, a gregarious man at ~190cm (about 6’3 for us south of that border) with a commanding voice that you can discern at a gathering of 50 without much work, is obviously motivated about security within society.
Many CEOs are very good business managers, or financial managers, or people motivators, some even technical wizards. Few are all of these. And it is common knowledge that a business organization will take on the personality of its leader.
In this time when Genetec has been recently ranked as the #1 global VMS vendor (link), Racz has little concern for such attribution. “Our goal is not growth. Our goal is perennity.” Choosing the word perennity in of itself is also not a fluke.
At first blush you may mistake Racz as brash or bearish. Spend any real time with him and you will realize that he is quick witted, Sherlock in his observational skills, and absolutely passionate about how technology should play a role in human wellbeing.
He really is more interested in Genetec being around for many years to come and has put into place succession plans that “do not include my biological children but definitely include my adopted work children” to make sure of Genetec’s future.
“And trust me, I am making sure those leaders are looking at the business with the right mindsets and skillsets.” You quickly understand that he is not talking about financial management or KPI management. (Google the book ‘Artisans, Craftsmen, and Technicians’ he tells me.)
He continues to work shoulder to shoulder with his engineering team where he is looking at how security is much more than a video management software (VMS). He is not kidding around when he talks about how security systems should help “protect liberal democracies” of the world.
Racz, at the annual Genetec press event three years ago, talked about the then decision of Genetec to stop supporting Hikvision cameras and how the Chinese government was not in the IP-camera business to make money. Interesting how the most recent news talks about the U.S. government placing bans on Hikvision cameras.
I find Racz borderline clairvoyant.
Genetec now has over 1,500 employees and has offices around the world. The Genetec team is proud to state that this growth has been organic and not through acquisitions “…that would just make our top line look better.”
Genetec is unabashed on focusing on enterprise-size customers and not the smaller “mom and pop” customers. They are a channel driven organization and will “shake up” their channel from time to time to make sure those integrators can continue to support the Genetec customers at the level Genetec feels is necessary.
The company believes that it needs “to deliver a continuous flow of clever innovations by achieving excellence in execution and enhanced cooperation with the best-of-breed in our ecosystem.”
Racz looks at what Genetec delivers with an overarching eye of “security of security.” Again, this really is not about a baseline ‘video management software’ suite. It is about a baseline of code designed for organizations to “help make an average day, an average day.”
In today’s interconnected, online, world, where does security really begin and what systems can be built to help achieve an end-user’s corporate mission? Login passwords are just not enough anymore. Genetec is looking at systems that will integrate multiple levels of assurance as to whom a user really is.
They look at the world of security from a level of a unique identity, to that of a known identity, to a checked identity, to a verified identity. And what tools are needed by the user to go from a unique identity to a verified identity? Tools like “UB keys.”
When Racz takes the front of the room and ruminates about technology that should protect liberal democracies, he is not being flip or grandiose. He believe Genetec needs to bring solutions to market that serve to validate with very high assurance the identity of the user (see above), that by using blockchain technology we can log and audit those users activities – while actually maintaining the privacy of those users, and utilize policy-based automation and oversight to ensure that those users can do what they should be doing when they should be doing it where they should be doing it from.
“If we have an access control system that badges in a user here in our Montreal headquarters who happens to be a manager allowed to sign off on purchase orders up to $25,000 during normal business hours, then our accounting system should not get an P.O. approval from someone that happens to be logging in on a Saturday from a Chinese location,” Racz shares.
This is the level of security that Genetec is thinking about when building out their systems. Genetec would like to see the day where policy-based automation and oversight are part of every organization’s daily workflow.
They would like the ultimate goal of a “Sarbanes-Oxley” type legislation that would remove any CEO or company leader from claiming ignorance when there is a security breach within their organization.
Racz gets passionate about this and believes that any company leader that is too lazy or too uneducated on corporate security issues – and then their company gets hacked – then like the leaders of famed Enron (link to wiki) they should go off to jail as well.
He believes that the C-suite must be accountable for their company’s policies – or lack thereof. That companies must remove the technological noise from their policy specifications and that the decisions management makes would be stored in a blockchain system for any future auditing. (And please don’t confuse this use of blockchain with Bitcoin.)
This will validate what security systems are in place, were in place at any given time, what actions were taken on any individual security issue, and how the company responded to them. Accountability.
Racz is rapid fire in his deliverance of these concepts and you start to get a sense of where he is looking to take Genetec. You learn that Genetec is a company with a ‘Culture of Security’ that is more than the just a VMS screen of video feeds and door alarms.
The Genetec team explains that the company has had a 12-year CAGR of 30% where every three years Genetec doubles in size. They are (as they should be) proud of how their Citigraf product has helped the City of Chicago’s 7th police district reduce violent crime by 25%. And they share that Genetec is seeing 22% annual market share growth while the surveillance industry itself is growing at just 10% annually.
The Genetec team shares that the old way of thinking about security systems from a ‘security, operations, intelligence’ perspective is outdated. “We are changing the mindset to Intelligence, Operations, Security” to drive home that having the security system ultimately deliver business intelligence is a key performance indicator.
They look at the world by wanting to “understand the everyday; improve the everyday; secure the everyday,” and this concept is a driving force behind the Genetec product portfolio.
You see this in the ‘Genetec Edifice’ where the core products are around video, access control, and LPR. With the underlying pillars of the company focusing on overall operational efficiencies, making sense of all the sensors being utilized, and constantly defaulting to the security of the security system.
A customer close in proximity to Genetec’s headquarters as well as in terms of a close working relationship is Casino de Montreal. Claude Laramée, Security Manager for the casino explained that “Every security system starts with the physical door. How do we look at that door to not only provide security to the Casino but ultimately provide customer service to our guests?”
Laramée went on to share that security professionals are sometime replicas of dinosaurs in that “we tend not to evolve.” We get comfortable with our VMS system or our access control system and fail to keep up with technological enhances that could be used to help deliver a truly wonderful customer experience.
Looking at Genetec’s product offering you see a focus on some key vertical markets and their security issues. This is where Citigraf, AutoVu, Mission Control, and other specific Genetec solutions come in.
But all of their solutions are geared around unification. How do all of these various industry solutions work within a unified Genetec offering that users can easily manage and navigate.
Andrew Elvish, VP Marketing at Genetec, believes that other vendors’ business model of “third party integration” is inherently risky. “What happens when those companies no longer work together for whatever reason? What happens to the end-customer when those two parties decide to go in separate directions?”
Genetec has an open API and SDK that partners can write plug-ins and offer enhancements to the base solution. “But it will always come back to the unified security solution that the customer can grow with,” stated Elvish.
They point to supporting APIs and protocols such as Modbus; BACnet; OPC so that specific integrations can easily occur across multiple solution sets that also support those protocols.
Keeping with their “Intelligence, Operations, Security” paradigm, Genetec has acquired a team from the University of Middlesex in the UK and their ‘Valcri’ technology -originally named for ‘Visual Analysis for Criminal Investigations’ – that is a hypothesis testing solution that allows end-users to interact and explore their own data to find trends and identify potential investigation points of interest.
“Our systems have all this data, how can we tap into it to find more revealing intelligence about our business,” stated Dr. Sean Lawlor, Data Scientist at Genetec.
Lawlor and Racz share that Genetec is investing heavily into machine deep learning and predictive analysis but they don’t believe that “A.I.” is going to be ‘real’ anytime soon. You get a better sense of Racz’s humor when he states that “we don’t see artificial intelligence yet but we do see real stupidity.”
Lawlor believes the technology should be looked at more as “IA instead of AI.” “Intelligent Automation is doable today but artificial intelligence is really decades away.”
So, what can Genetec bring to market that can utilize IA (intelligent automation)? They are looking at what insights could end-users gain from cross-domain data sources where the system is ingesting data (video feeds, access control alarms, LPR alerts), leveraging that data for business intelligence, and interacting with that intelligence to help drive business workflows.
You now get a sense of how Genetec is looking at security solutions as much more than just a VMS solution.
The company will be introducing a new product at this year’s GSX expo in Chicago. ClearID is a new tool for empowering an organization’s operations around access control. This is not a visitor management system but instead looks at the permissions and privileges of an employee or authorized visitor and what that visitor is capable of accessing across the organization, from physical doors to software applications. And also removing those credentials and privileges appropriately, which is a critical management aspect within an organization.
ClearID is designed to make the removal of the access credentials automatic.
You also start to see that Genetec really does hone in on specific vertical customers and develop unique tools – still holding true to the unified solution architecture- to help drive operational efficiencies for those customers.
The team hosted a Cannabis Security Panel that talked about the exploding cannabis industry and what is required from a security standpoint for the companies themselves, their customers, and the companies’ workflows.
You see more and more U.S. states approving medical marijuana usage and the legalization of recreational marijuana. Canada, as a country, has legalized recreational marijuana use and has implemented numerous security regulations around those companies growing and selling cannabis.
“Canada has not run out of Doritos,” declared Elvish. But Canada being a “first mover” in legalization countrywide has shown Genetec the importance from a security perspective on the requirements of tracking “seed to sale” and that utilizing many of the various technologies within Genetec can significantly improve the cannabis industry’s security operations needs.
Again, whether its video surveillance, access control, or video analytics, the cannabis industry is in need of efficient solutions.
For example, employees within a cannabis grow facility may have access to one area of the grow facility but not another. Using color patches on the employee uniforms and video analytics to monitor those employees the organization can ensure compliance with area access requirements.
Another example is facial recognition solutions – or the lack of facial recognition in the case of someone wearing a ski mask and approaching the facility. This would alarm the security team and automatically lock the doors to thwart any possible attack on the organization.
The cannabis industry is changing rapidly and the industry’s security leaders are indeed becoming leaders in security and not just someone that may have been a former military police or city police officer. The cannabis security leaders need to understand how an overarching security solution is vital to the success of the entire operation.
To highlight the cultural difference of Genetec over other “VMS providers” it starts to really hit home when we asked Racz why has Genetec jumped so heavily into the Cannabis industry.
“Well, there is a serious answer and a silly answer. I think you can guess the serious answer but I will tell you the silly answer with a story: A couple of patients at a local mental hospital declared that Dr. Jones was their favorite doctor at the institution. Dr. Jones was flattered and asked why. ‘Because you are the one doctor most like us.’”
Racz then gave us that clairvoyant look.